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Professional Life and Work

Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change

Educational Research as a Public Intellectual

The task for CARE then was to find intellectual answers to the problem of empowering education for all.  This assumption of benign governance came from the salience of the egalitarian project in some establishment circles.  CARE proceeded on a belief in good intentions, a secure sense of good faith and a belief in the moral high ground of work to educate all sections of society.  This belief was to have profound consequences for it led into definitions of educational research that could be hijacked, perverted and re-positioned for other social and political purposes.  Because of the belief in governmental good intentions and in the ideological supremacy of egalitarianism patterns of educational research remained de-politicised and detached from conceptualisations of power.  Again, MacDonald has cogently reflected on the 30-year moratorium which followed 1945:

The development of a political consciousness in education was delayed by 30 years.  The post-war expansion of schooling was powered by a political consensus around the notion of Keynesian social democracy (Marquand, 1988).  Throughout that period, it seemed that economic buoyancy would finance the agreed goals of full employment, adequate social services, and the co-existence of public and private enterprise.  In 1970, expenditure on education exceeded expenditure on defence for the first, but last time.  The writing was now on the wall (and the Schools Council under severe political attack as the warning signs were taken heed of) and recession looming.  The consensus collapsed under Labour in the mid-to late-1970s in a massive failure of adaption to the new economic realities.  The truce was over, as was the indulgence.  The politics of moderation were out, the politics of extremism in.  The sense of a failing society (with schooling, of course, a favourite target) was pervasive, and of a failing socialism, conclusive.  In an extraordinary ideological coup (not least of her own party), Thatcher seized the opportunity to introduce and implement a version of economic liberalism not seen since the nineteenth century - the undistorted market (MacDonald, 1991, p. 12).

This sense of good intentions led to a form of ‘progressive overreach’ whereby strong liberal and entrenched positions were overthrown in the search for more egalitarian, more inclusive modalities.  In the progressive moment confident of benign government, with an expansionist economy and social democratic movements seeking to counter the allure of communism this reaching for more was profoundly understandable.  Hence, 'applied research' was a central mantra of CARE in the early 1970s.  Applied research sought to move beyond the liberal discourse of foundational theory in teacher education.   Writing in 1974 in a paper on the future of CARE, Lawrence wrote

About 15 years ago an attack was mounted on the intellectual standard of the teaching of education in universities and colleges.  This attack stressed the need to teach education through its constituent disciplines.  Philosophy, psychology and sociology won a central place.  History and comparative education were more peripheral.  This attack carried the day and majority of courses in education in both universities and colleges are now founded in the constituent disciplines.

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Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives
  • Date of publication: 01/09/2003
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 160
  • Publisher: Open University Press
  • Co-author: NAN
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
  • Available in:
    English
  • Appears in:
    Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £23.99
  • ISBN: 9780335204113
  • Purchase this book:
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